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C.D. Pelham provides solid relief as Indians win fifth consecutive game

By Josh Horton joshho@spokesman.com

C.D. Pelham has quickly become Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett’s favorite reliever.

The right-hander pitched three frames unscathed and picked up a save in the Indians’ 8-4 win over the Boise Hawks on Thursday, the team’s fifth straight. Pelham surrendered three hits and struck out four against the Hawks, reducing his earned-run average to 0.69.

“He’s got a big arm, we know that,” Hullett said. “But the thing to me, he’s been very composed out there.”

Pelham, who was touching 96 mph in high school, used his fastball exclusively back then. Most of the kids he faced while playing at Lancaster (South Carolina) High School couldn’t even touch it.

“Half of those guys couldn’t hit it,” Pelham said. “I just blew it by everybody.”

Pelham played two years at Spartanburg (South Carolina) Methodist College, a junior college, where he first started to craft his full repertoire of pitches. But at the end of the day, his fastball continued to be the pitch he turned to in tight situations.

In his first season of pro baseball, Pelham found out quickly that wasn’t going to work in the big leagues. He struggled in 2015 with the Arizona League Rangers, pitching 18 1/3 innings and posting a 5.40 ERA.

“I honestly got in and thought I could blow the fastball by everybody,” Pelham said.

This year, he’s worked on developing his change-up, curveball and slider extensively, and it’s translated to success with the Indians.

“I talk to (Indians pitching coach) Joey (Seaver) all the time about this. Pitching is about changing speeds to get pitchers off-balanced,” Pelham said. “Being able to mix those pitches up might be the most important thing. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.”

The Indians jumped on the scoreboard in the first inning, as Preston Scott doubled down the left-field line to score Chad Smith, putting the Indians up 1-0.

Stephen Lohr scored after Clayton Middleton hit into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded, pushing the Indians’ lead to 2-0 in the second.

Boise took a 3-2 lead in the third as Garrett Hampson scored Tyler Orris on a grounder and Luis Castro drove a two-RBI single to left field.

After Smith grounded into a 4-6-3 double play following a Blaine Prescott single in the third, the Indians appeared to have wasted a chance to retaliate with two of team’s most productive hitters to the plate. But Scott jump-started a two-out rally with an infield single, and Xavier Turner and Stephen Lohr followed with back-to-back walks to give the Indians the bases loaded and new life.

Charles LeBlanc’s chopper to the left side of the infield was misread by Boise third baseman Anthony Brito, scoring Scott and Turner. Todd McDonald and Clayton Middleton proceeded with consecutive RBI singles to left field, and just like that, the Indians controlled the game again with a 6-3 lead.

Smith sent a solo home run to right field, his first of the season, adding another run to the Indians lead in the fourth.

Hawks catcher Wilkyns Jiminez singled to right field in the sixth inning, scoring Castro.

Five Indians – Smith, Scott, Lohr, McDonald and Middleton –had two hits apiece. LeBlanc had a triple.

Indians starter Nick Green was the winning pitcher, going six innings and relinquishing four runs. Boise’s Michael Zimmerman dropped to a league-worst 0-5, giving up seven runs (two earned) and seven hits.

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